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Apple Hill Playhouse's production of 'Aladdin' a different take on genie tale

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 5:00 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Jarrett Reiche of Jeannette and Hannah Barch, 15, of Springdale rehearse for Apple Hill Playhouse's Johnny Appleseed Children's Theater production of 'Aladdin' at the American Legion in Delmont on Friday, June 27, 2014.

Stas Ziolkowski promises that Apple Hill Playhouse's production of “Aladdin” will not be like the popular 1992 Disney animated film that featured the voice of Robin Williams as the magical genie.

“This ‘Aladdin' will be nothing like Disney. It's not computer generated, and the story is true to older versions,” says Ziolkowski of Murrysville, who is directing the show for Johnny Appleseed Children's Theatre.

Apple Hill's stage version with music, lyrics and book by Richard Kinter and adapted by Ziolkowski is an adventure tale pitting good against evil. It involves several characters who are seeking different things, including Magrabi, the magician, who wants the magic lamp; Aladdin, who wants to meet the princess; and the Sultan, who wants his daughter to be happy.

Ziolkowski performed as the Troll last season in another Apple Hill children's production, “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum.” He had a good experience and was happy to agree to direct “Aladdin” when he was asked by Pat Beyer, Apple Hill's producer and artistic director.

“I thought it would be fun to work with the young people again. I did many theater productions in the past with elementary students, and it is always enjoyable,” he says.

The director says the strength of Apple Hill's “Aladdin” is with its talented cast members.

“Jarrett Reiche (Aladdin) and Simone D'Souza (Princess Graziaja) have beautiful singing voices. They portray the characters as if they weren't acting at all,” Ziolkowski says. “Jarrett is the most experienced member of the cast and the oldest at 18. Simone and Jarrett are perfect as the beautiful and handsome Princess and Aladdin.

“Colton Pikovsky as Magrabi the Magician is mysterious and evil, and Hannah Barch (Aladdin's mother) portrays the beleaguered woman in a marvelous way, far beyond her years.”

Also adding to the production are Jeffrey Bachus (Landlord), who also provides offstage voices for other characters, Trent Edwards (Genie of the Lamp) and Colton Edwards (Sultan).

Ziolkowski is a stage veteran, having acted in, directed, written and produced more than 100 shows since 1985. A few of his favorite roles were Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Alfred P. Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” Fagin in “Oliver” and Jesus in “Godspell.”

Reiche, of Jeannette, has acted in several theater productions, but never in a children's show, which is why he decided to audition for “Aladdin.”

“Being Aladdin is such a wonderful experience, and I'm really having a ball with it,” he says. “Aladdin is a unique character full of energy and spunk. The character also requires dynamic comic timing, which is also a ton of fun.”

Reiche graduated from Penn-Trafford High School in 2013 and took some theater classes at Penn State University before transferring to Marymount Manhattan, a performing-arts school in New York City, where he will be a sophomore working on a bachelor of fine arts in acting.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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